Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa made the accusation Thursday as he testified in a Johannesburg courtroom about an attempt on his own life in 2010 in South Africa. The shooting of Nyamwasa, and developments in other countries, have raised suspicions that Rwanda’s government has deployed hit teams against dissidents abroad. Rwanda denies the accusations.
“I ran out of the country because my life was threatened,” Nyamwasa testified.
Nyamwasa fled in 2010 to South Africa, where he was shot months after arrival. Nyamwasa testified Thursday that a bullet remains lodged at the base of his spinal column.
Rwanda’s government has denied involvement in the attempted murder.
Nyamwasa testified Thursday that another Rwandan exiled in South Africa allowed him to listen in secret to a telephone call with a top Rwandan army official in Rwanda. Nyamwasa said the caller from Rwanda was looking for someone to help “eliminate” Nyamwasa. Nyamwasa said he reported the conversation to South African authorities before he was shot, but that his security was stepped up only after the shooting.
He added, as a further explanation of why he may have been targeted: “There are facts in my knowledge that the president of Rwanda ordered the killing of the former president of Rwanda, President Habyarimana.”
Rwanda’s 100-day genocide was sparked by the shooting down of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane in 1994. Militants from the Hutu ethnic majority blamed Tutsis, sparking the massacre of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, a frenzied slaughter that was stopped when Kagame’s Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, toppled the Hutu extremists.
While the Rwandan government blames Hutu extremists for the crash that killed Habyarimana, accusations persisted for years that Kagame’s Tutsi rebel force shot down the plane. A French investigation completed earlier this year found that the missile fire came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels. French judges had filed preliminary charges against Kagame’s allies and were investigating the crash because a French air crew was killed.
Nyamwasa was not allowed to elaborate Thursday after the judge ruled that the general was merely speculating and not offering evidence of the suspects’ motives.
A South African lawyer hired by Rwanda’s government to monitor the proceedings, Gerhard van der Merwe, said after Thursday’s session that it was unfortunate accusations could be leveled without Kagame being given an opportunity to respond.
Nyamwasa was for years a top Kagame aide. In testimony over the last two days, he has described a falling out that may have led to his apparent demotion from national security coordinator to ambassador to India in 2004.